Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween! Jungle Red style...

HALLIE EPHRON: Halloween is a big deal in our neighborhood. People decorate, more even than for Christmas. My neighbor across the street has a giant inflated pumpkin. Next door skeletal hands reach up out of the ground. 

This year my husband won't be doing an elaborately carved pumpkin, though the door of his office at the college celebrates the holiday in special fashion with one of his signature rats.

My daughters have always gotten into Halloween. I'm not clever at all and I'm cheap, so they had to make their own costumes. They still do. Brilliantly. Here's them a few years ago, doing me proud. I crack up every time I look at this photo.

This year Daughter #1 is dressing up as her cat. (See photo at the end of this post.)

So what goes on with the rest of you at Halloween?

LUCY BURDETTE: Well, okay, we are in Key West for Halloween, and that means a week called Fantasy Fest, leading up to the big parade on Saturday. The week starts out with an unofficial event called the zombie bike ride. (I wrote about all this in KILLER TAKEOUT, which was loads of fun. John and I commissioned a professional face painter to do our zombie looks. )

THEN, as the week goes on, the costumes get raunchier and skimpier. As I was doing research, I persuaded the boys to participate in nearly everything, including the tutu party.  

The Key West locals parade is on Friday night, and the creativity for that event is stunning! 

There are several blocks on Duval Street, designated as the "fantasy zone," and that's where the dearth of costumes other than body paint becomes notable. (I will not share those photos, but you can Google.)

I have always loved costumes and hence, Halloween, but I never imagined living in a place where costumes rule!

RHYS BOWEN: Not having grown up with Halloween I have never seen it as the big deal that my children and grandchildren have made it. In fact my first year in the US there was a knock on my door and a child in cat costume stood there. Trick or Treat she said. I had no idea what she meant! And of course I had no candy to give her.

I used to love dressing up. Now it seems like a chore.

We're going to a Halloween party and as I write this I'm trying to come up with clever costumes that take no work. I'm thinking of a black veil over a long black dress and a picture of Oprah Winfrey tacked to it. I'll be the Phantom of the Oprah. What do you think? And John can wear his usual suit with the letter C on it and be The Old Man and the C.

Any better ideas?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Rhys! You are hilarious. Perfection.  Jonathan and I--see here? Went a few years ago as the Arcs:  Joan, and Noah. 


And funnily enough, I was reading an old diary from seriously, more than 30 years ago. In it, I was swooning over a guy I had met at a Halloween costume party. Will he call, won't he, all that stuff. I was--35 maybe. Very very single. And here's the BEST and purest diary line of all times, seriously. I wrote:

"And how can I even be sure what he thinks? He's only seen me dressed as a teabag."
Honestly, I can barely type now, I am laughing so hard at that. I was being completely and totally serious.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Hank, that is the most hilarious line ever. Honestly, you could build an entire BRIDGET JONES-style novel around that one sentence (and of course, she has a costume disaster, when she shows up to a garden fete mistakenly dressed for a "Tarts and Vicars" party.)

We live out in the country, and Halloween is so low key we've taken to leaving a big bowl of candy on the front porch - and there's always plenty left by the end of the night. There are a limited number of children around, and only the youngest go house-to-house in our area. Once they reach the age when they start calculating how much candy they could be getting, they're off to the suburbs or to Portland.

Hank, I too met a young man on Halloween, when I was at school in London. Not having packed any costume material when shipping a wardrobe overseas for seven months, my best friend and I rented outfits from a Fancy Dress Shop. First and only time I haven't made my own. Anyway, I went as a sort of Gay 90s Burlesque girl - satin corset with velvet drapery fore and aft, fishnet tights with a garter, and some sort of plume thing in my hair. 


JULIA: We went to our local pub and then on to three different parties, and I got more male attention that night than I ever have before or since! I chatted with and made a date with one nice fellow I met at a party. I think he was horribly disappointed when I turned up for dinner in my usual garb of frill-necked shirt, sweater, and Laura Ashley skirt (it was 1982, and every girl dressed either like Diana Spencer or Madonna.) Maybe if I had been in a tea bag, he would have had different expectations.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: You are all so cute! (And Rhys, you are hysterical...) Now I'm embarrassed to admit that I am a total bust at Halloween. My mom didn't do costumes, and I just never got the hang of it. My daughter learned pretty early to cope on her own. But I love seeing the little ones in their costumes. We don't get many trick-or-treaters, but I like to sit on the front porch with a bowl of candy during the prime time to welcome the few who come by.

But this year I'm in London, and am going to my friend's house in Chiswick (west London.) They have hundreds of trick-or-treaters! Halloween has taken over the UK. And there are Halloween-themed decorations everywhere here. 

Back at home, Wren is getting off to a good start in her first Halloween costume!

HALLIE: Please, share your Halloween traditions! And if you email me a picture, I'll add it to the post.

To get us started, here's my daughter as her cat....  Is she adorable or what?

Thanks for this, from Edith Maxwell: "For many years my best friend and I dressed up in complementary costumes for Halloween, often with face masks. We'd go together to parties and not speak to try to fool our friends. Here's one from the early eighties." I think everyone will agree, these are two scary babes.

And here's Denise Terry, who says: "A few years ago I went to a Cape Cod Writers Center event in this costume which not one person could identify!  Gertrude Stein!!" We would have guessed it. Thanks, Denise! (Her tag says: Rose is a rose is a rose)


  1. While I am a total bust at all things Halloween, my daughters are fantastic at doing the whole costume and trick-or-treating thing with my grandchildren. This year the Colorado contingent are Peter Pan characters; the Virginia granddaughter will be a Care Bear.
    Trick-or-treaters don’t come by our out-of-the-way home, so it’s going to be a very quiet Halloween night around here . . . .

  2. I'm a total bust at Halloween these days too. Although I do excel at coming up with enough odds and ends to put together some amusing costumes (my favorite was Sammy, the one-eyed church cat whose care I took on as part of my tithe. Black diveskin, crocheted tail, gold lame ears, and a rhinestone eye patch).

    My problem, I tend to live in rural areas. Not many trick or treaters venture into them. The local kids are all at parties, not in the streets. There was a time when I did live in the suburbs and that lead to one of my favorite Halloween stories. A little boy, no more than two and a half showed up at my door dressed as a cowboy. He silently thrust his bag out when I opened the door, and doing my part, I filled it with candy. He turned back in the direction of his father waiting at the end of the walkway. His father said, "Don't you say thank you?" The little boy looked from me to his Dad, his little face crumpling and he wailed, "You told me not to talk to strangers!" The Dad and I shared a good laugh. The poor little kid was probably completely traumatized.

  3. Hallie, your daughter is adorable!! What about your grandbabies? Do they have costumes?

  4. Oh yes, and Wren is so cute too! and Kait, love the one-eyed church cat. that's the most interesting tithe I've ever heard of!

  5. So funny! Little kids in costumes are so adorable… Have you seen the hotdog outfit? and I saw a costume of a toddler in a cloud of white balloons, and she was a bubble bath!!

  6. Wren's darling photo gave me granny whimmies! So cute.

    You guys are so funny. Hank, I can't stop laughing at the tea bag moment! And Julia, isn't it fun to take on another persona for one night? I had the same experience the year I dressed up as Karina the Gypsy Wench, with long, tumbling curls and ribbons tied to everything, including a tambourine.

    I'm the oldest of four kids, and my mother had (and still has) zero imagination. Her grandmother's and father's vast creativity seems to have skipped a generation, so I was the go-to costume person in our family, starting at about age 11. Those skills came in handy for 35 years of child-raising, and for creating loads of other costumes for me, and then for Steve and me together. We've had some fun Halloween parties, too, wherein I go completely nuts with decorating and food and signature drink and music, in addition to a couple costume theme. Halloween, in case you can't tell, is my favorite special day.

  7. My granddaughter Franny will tell you she's going as a "sparkly mermaid princess." She's been dressing up in her costume for weeks. I'm waiting to see if they dress up baby Jody. Still thinking about that one-eyed church cat.

  8. I think there are three kids in my rural neighborhood, they don't come door-to-door. (Every year, alas, so I have to eat all the mini-chocolate bars I get just in case! ;-) ). The boys would never let me plan a Halloween party for their friends when they were younger. I wanted to put up a hunter's blind behind the biggest oak tree in the backyard, for example, and have my extremely tall brother come swooping out of the tree in a dementor costume--the boys told me the idea was to HAVE FUN, AUNT FLORA, not scare people to death!

    Love all the photos--look at Wren, the big girl, sitting up!! And, yes, Hallie, your daughter makes a great cat!

  9. Gosh, dementors are truly scary. Going to look for dementor costumes now...

  10. I adore Halloween and dressing up. For many years my best friend and I dressed up in complementary costumes for Halloween, often with face masks. We'd go together to parties and not speak to try to fool our friends. Hallie, I just sent you a picture of one such pair of costumes from the early eighties. Our birthdays are also only three days apart, with Halloween in the middle, so we often held costumed Scorpio Birthday Bash parties. ;^)

  11. Edith, I'm guessing you're the woman in white. :-)

  12. Dressed as ourselves, we'll be ready to treat the hordes of kids when they begin streaming through the neighborhood around 5:30 p.m.

    We live in the kind of walkable 'hood that attracts not only the local kids, but those from more rural neighborhoods where there's little bang for the trick or treating buck.

    We held off buying candy until yesterday, to minimize how long it would be in the house. Could I make it through one night without dipping into the mini-Almond Joys? Nope.

  13. Mmmm, almond joys - my favorite. Though they'd be much better if they used dark chocolate. Our candy is half gone - going to have to replenish.

  14. Hank, you are too funny. And Wren, of course, is adorable.

    I kinda don't like Halloween. Okay, scratch that. I really don't like it. For years I had to do multiple costumes - one for school and one for each activity - for each kid. It was a blessing when the kids could do their own. Now they are teens, The Girl usually dresses up at school (but she went to something about the Holocaust on Friday and had to wear her uniform, so she didn't dress up). The Boy sometimes hangs out with his friends.

    The Girl did do a picture of the Harley Quinn makeup from "The Suicide Squad" and posted it to Instagram because "everybody is doing Harley Quinn this year and nobody is doing the makeup right."

    Last night at dinner I asked, "Do you two have plans, going to walk the neighborhood..." and before I could finish my sentence, The Hubby slapped the table and shouted "No! They are too old for that crap, we talked about this last year." Okay then.

    So we bought candy. We probably won't get many visitors (our house is right where the streetlights start to get spaced out so the street is darker). The Girl and I will probably watch a movie and The Boy whatever he is going to do.

  15. This year we went low key and dressed as the cool cats family--ears, tails, aviators sunglasses, and drawn on whiskers. This included our 2 1/2 month granddaughter.

    One year my husband and I were a Hitchcock Double Feature. I had a shower curtain (with a proper silhouette and bloody hand prints sliding down) wrapped around me for Psycho. My husband had black birds all over him, some ripping through his shirt. One on his head had an eyeball in its beak and he had one eye blacked out. The Birds.

    Another year we were cat burglars wearing cat masks we got in Venice, Italy. We carried pillow cases for our loot. In them were cans of cat food and cat toys with a stuffed animal cat peeking out over the top.

  16. Oh, Mary - that is practically a tragedy in three acts. I'm so out of it I had to look up Harley Quinn.

    Libby, those costumes sound brilliant!

  17. Where I grew up (St. Louis, MO), kids had to do a trick to earn a treat. We would all be busy in October learning poems or practicing jokes. You could kind of tell what grade kids were I by the jokes they told (I.e. All the 5th graders knew the same joke). The first year I lived in the Chicago area, after college, I opened the door to our first-ever trick or treaters and said, "Welll, what's your trick?" They all looked at me like I was mits, and my husband of 4 mos. said "What are you DOING!?" Talk about culture shock ...

  18. I'm so impressed how creative other people are. Hallie, your daughter is an adorable cat, and as for Debs Wren... So cute. Out teenage grandkids are downplaying costumes these days. My slim and gorgeous Lizzy went to a party as a football player. The twins are always something scary, zombies or The Scream. And I have bought all this candy and we live on a hill so hardly any kids come. Ah well....what will I do with those extra bags of Kit Kat?

  19. Rhys, you could give the Kit Kat to me...One of the few things that tempt me, and then only when I'm in England.

  20. Just on a cultural note - growing up in Scotland in the 50s Halloween was a big deal, with costumes, trick or treating, the whole nine yards. When we moved south to London, there was nothing ... Finding out that it was a big deal in the US had me confused - had these customs come to us in WWII? No, one of my students researched the history (she is Korean and was totally perplexed about why her kids spent months preparing for this festival). This is a Celtic/Scottish custom that went to the US with immigrants - maybe while it is a big deal in the Boston area. Happy Halloween!!!

  21. Thanks, Karen (snort). No, Hallie, I'm the one in black!

  22. Very few little ones in my neighborhood. We usually can get by with small bag of candy. Purchased today otherwise it would be gone before the event. My kids were creative, loving the fantasy part of the holiday. The most challenging? My youngest went as a giraffe.

    I toast everyone's ingenuity with my seasonal pumpkin latte.

  23. Carole, thx for the history lesson! and MOTB where I grew up a trick was what you did (like egging the house) if they DIDN'T give out treats.

    A tradition here I don't like so much is smashing pumpkins on Halloween night. We learned the hard way not to leave the pumpkin (carved or not) out on the front step. And those were the days when I made a pie from the jack-o-lantern.

  24. LOVE almond joys. And Twizzlers. But is it me? Did they change twizzlers? They taste different now, somehow.

    Smashing pumpkims? Oh, that's terrible. SO dumb.

    And now I realize we have no candy. Yeesh. Off to the drug store! (Maybe I'l dress up as a sparkly mermaid princess. Sounds perfect.)

  25. And Hallie, love the pumpkin spice typeface...

  26. Some years I am into Halloween and some years not. I loved it when my kids were little, and they totally loved the holiday. I have sewn my share of costumes, but have never dressed up much myself.

    This year I made a Princess Leia costume for my granddaughter and it's great!!

  27. Need pix of Hank as the sparkly mermaid princess!

  28. What fun. When I had small children, I made costumes, did the decorating, made cupcakes and cookies and punch, all that and a bag of chips. This was before children were allergic to all nuts, all food dye, and weren't allowed sugar.

    How things have changed.

    We buy bags and bags of candy, a fair amount of which have already disappeared. Our neighbor across the street does enough decorating for the whole block, and we get a fair amount of traffic. I like that parents bring their kids here from the inner city, nice safe area with people like me who don't care who comes to the door as long as there is some sort of costume. It will start at dusk, and by 8:30 or 9:00 we will shut down, depending on how the candy holds out.

    Being in a holiday mood, I made a big batch of oatmeal cookies this afternoon, and have a kettle of clam chowder, Manhattan, sorry you New Englanders, simmering on the stove. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by. Costumes optional.

  29. OK, I just have to tell this story, but if you repeat it, I'll have to shoot you.

    Back in the day, way way back, my ex-husband and I hosted an adult Halloween party. There were a crowd of people, enough to eat, and more than enough to drink. This occurred after the children were nestled all snug in their beds, etc.

    One of our friends, a guy, was unable to attend, can't remember why now. But I was dared to "trick" him, and don't ever dare me, because I'll take you up on it.

    So I retired to my boudoir, stripped naked, put on a voluminous trench coat, and off I went. I knocked on his door, and when he answered, I screamed "trick or treat" and flashed him.

    And that's the end of the story.


  30. ALMOST????? Ann, you can't leave us hanging!!!

  31. Dare I ask, you didn't take a picture, did you?

  32. Oh, I love Halloween, but the actual day has become rather low-key for me since the kids have grown and moved away. I have gone to Boo-at-the-Zoo with the granddaughters some, but this year I'm just at home by myself. We haven't had trick-or-treaters where we live for years. But, I enjoy the weeks leading up to Halloween and wear my Halloween shirts and earrings, which delight my seven-year-old granddaughter. I'm waiting to see the pictures of her this year. I will probably treat myself to a Hting to spend Halloween in London is so cool. Hallie, I love your husband's rat and your daughter's cat. My kids are much more clever than I am at costumes, too. Hank, you and Jonathan are perfect as the Arcs, and the teabag line is hilarious. Lucyalloween movie, such as Hocus Pocus. I've watched that so many times and still love it.

    And, I love seeing all the Reds' costumes and family costumes. Debs, Wren is so adorable, and you get, you and John certainly got your money's worth. Great faces! And, being in Key West during Halloween is indeed a special time. Rhys, I saw your face mask on FaceBook earlier, and it is beautiful. I'm still laughing over The Old Man and the C, too! Julia, I thought that scene from Bridget Jones' Diary was one of funniest scenes ever. Edith, that is a bit scary, and Denise, I love the Gertrude Stein look.

  33. We no longer have kids coming by at home, and I miss it. A young dad who works in my building at work took the afternoon off to bring his two little girls trick- or- treating in the different offices. The three year old told me " you're pretty" which cracked me up, as I was dressed in terribly mismatched clothing, a purple feather boa, a shocking pink feather hair clip, lots of bangle bracelets, and extremely garish makeup! Sort of Crazy Old Lady/Free Spirit!

    Deb Romano

  34. Deborah, we love your crazy old lady/free spirit and indulge occasionally ourselves!